For starters, a digital nomad would be a person who does not work from a fixed location like an office. And where the “digital” adjective comes into play is that unlike traveling salesmen for instance, who also don’t work from fixed locations per se, digital nomads rely heavily on information technology, such as laptops and of course the internet.
Also, it may be that a digital nomad never meets his or her employer face-to-face or has to handle any physical product.
As such, digital nomad is a term that didn’t even exist prior to the 1990s, i.e. the advent of the internet, portable computers. So when you talk of the innumerable ways in which the Information Age has changed the world, one is by affording many IT-based professionals the opportunity to make a living on a road, thus the “nomad” designation, as in not having a fixed home.
Pros of Being a Digital Nomad
Digital nomadism is not for everybody who has the opportunity to do so. To the contrary, some IT professionals who work remotely may still prefer to do so from a fixed location, like their homes, instead of constantly bouncing around. But there can be advantages to adopting a digital nomad lifestyle, such as:
1 – Regular Travel
First and definitely foremost, being a digital nomad would logically favor those who actually enjoy being on the road. And again, as idyllic and fantastical as such a modus operandi may sound, the reality of the situation can be a lot different, which we will get into later.
2 – Less Work-Related Stress
Being in an office simply isn’t for everyone. That is to say that some of us may work better alone than we do in groups. One of the caveats though is that workplaces tend to be specifically designed to maximize a worker’s productivity concerning the task at hand. By contrast, places like hotels, i.e. the residences of your typical digital nomad, may be replete with distractions.
So as a digital nomad or prospective one, you need to be wary of those lists that recommend vacation hubs as viable residences for digital nomads, as there can be so much partying and/or chillin’ going on that it becomes difficult, if not impossible to meet deadlines. But that said, the right hotel, guesthouse or what have you can also be a lot quieter and less-stressful than your average office.
3 – Simpler Lifestyle
This pro of being a digital nomad is largely a respective one. Or put otherwise, yes being on the road is an ideal opportunity to lessen one’s burdens by traveling with as few material possessions as possible.
Indeed, one of the most effective ways of spoiling a travel experience is by carrying around a bunch of junk that you always have to be mindful of. But the fact of the matter is that not everyone is able to live this way. Or in the very least, doing so takes some practice.
4 – Increased Creativity
One of the greatest benefits of traveling, as a digital nomad, is that new settings and fresh experiences also tend to spur creative thinking. This may not be applicable in every line of computer-based remote work, but generally speaking creativity is beneficial.
5 – Reduction in Living Expenses
By and large, being on the road is more expensive than living a fixed lifestyle. But one advantage of being a digital nomad is that you can relocate to an area that may be less expensive than where you’re currently at.
In other words yes, the cost of living appears to be going up everywhere. But still, some places are not as costly as others. For example, city life is often costlier than residing on the outskirts, i.e. in remote, less-popular areas. So if you’re stuck in the city as a traditional worker, there’s little you can do but grin and bear it. But as a digital nomad, you can actually relocate to said outskirts.
6 – Reduction in Taxes
Along those same lines, some localities have higher income taxes and what have you. So if you don’t favor how tax laws are constructed in one area, you can relocate to another.
Some of the higher paid digital nomads and those who know how to manage expenses while on the road may even prefer to relocate to a different country altogether.
7 – Digital Nomads are Being More Widely & Formally Recognized
This recognition has many countries developing schemes specifically in the name of attracting such digital nomads to their respective nations. Indeed, there are a plethora of lists circulating on the internet which highlight various international destinations that are friendly to digital nomads.
But as always, we recommend not getting caught up in the fantasy side of the endeavor but rather taking both the pros and cons of each location into proper consideration.
Cons of Being a Digital Nomad
So with that said, now we will look at some of the cons that can come along with being digitally nomadic. And to note, this particular segment is not meant to scare anybody. Rather the purpose is to illustrate, as one old adage goes, that every fantasy tends to be perfect until it becomes a reality.
1 – Possible Income Inadequacies
At the very top of the list of cons would be inadequate income. Yes, living in a small town, even as a traveler can be less expensive than residing in the city – so on and so forth. But traveling tends to incur expenses of its own, beyond transportation costs.
For instance, as a digital nomad, you will most likely be residing in hotels and other forms of temporary housing. And needless to say, hotels, motels and guesthouses are a lot more expensive, in the long term, than having your own house or apartment.
Also while traveling, there are security issues, and things will inevitably get lost along the way. And if you find yourself out in the boondocks somewhere, you’d be surprised how difficult it can be to get certain things that you need as compared to being within the city. So as a digital nomad, you would want to make sure that your income is high enough to support such a lifestyle, as just scraping by without a fixed home is definitely not ideal.
2 – Internet Connectivity
The United States is one of the most-developed countries in the world, but there are still approximately 20 million people therein who lack internet access or are faced with browsing speeds that no digital nomad would ever want to encounter.
Being digitally nomadic may afford you residential freedom, but there are still deadlines, etc. that you will be faced with. So you wouldn’t want to be caught out somewhere where innocent connectivity is sporadic or so slow that it’s unworkable.
3 – Lack of Direct Interaction with Coworkers
One of the biggest advantages of working in an office is that there are always coworkers nearby to answer questions or give other forms of assistance, instantly, if need be. This is a benefit you will not have as a digital nomad.
Perhaps you’ll engage in the occasional Zoom meeting or what have you. But, it may be more as if everyone is on their own separate clocks. Or, it can even be that you and people you work with/for are residing in completely different time zones. So you will not always have access to instant or timely feedback, which can be a major headache in some instances.
4 – Lack of Family Life
You wouldn’t want to be a digital nomad if you have children to take care of, since it wouldn’t be the best idea to permanently take them out on the road, unless your income is able to handle such a load. It also tends to be more difficult to build up meaningful relationships in general when you’re constantly on the move.
5 – Health Insurance & Other such Issues
There are certain benefits that an individual is eligible for only if he or she is the permanent resident of a locality. One that instantly comes to mind of course would be healthcare. And since healthcare can be a major expense, this is something you would want to look into as a digital nomad in terms of your prospective destinations.
Also, remember that when traveling internationally there are various forms of paperwork – i.e. visas and work permits, in addition to the passport itself – which must be kept up-to-date. Meanwhile, these aren’t the types of issues you would have to deal with if you were to stay working at one set location.
Being a digital nomad can definitely prove an exciting and fulfilling lifestyle – if you’re able to handle it. The reason why being a nomad wasn’t a celebrated lifestyle prior to the digital revolution is because we human beings have a tendency to prefer living in a fixed home and receive all of the types of certainty that come along with it.
But at least with certain forms of remote work nowadays, an employee is afforded the opportunity to not only move about but also make enough money to do so and actually enjoy the experience. It is that reality which gave rise to digital nomadism.
If you are employed in such a field and prefer to live with minimized long-term relationships and less security in the name of adventurism, then you may also prove to be a successful and healthy digital nomad.